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Fantasy football rankings: Sorting the dynasty RBs into tiers

Dec 31, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) takes the field for action against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

If dynasty fantasy football analyst word counts across the industry are any indication, 2018 season seems destined to be the “Year of the Running Back.” The reason? A two-year-long tidal wave of new talent has washed over the NFL and refreshed the once very barren shores of the dynasty backfield beach. The exciting result is that there are more running backs in the RB2 and RB3 range who have real talent and upside to become more, whereas a few seasons ago it seemed more like a plug-and-play area in positional rankings that was dictated almost entirely by player opportunity share.

One of the most helpful ways to make rankings sets actionable is to add tiers. I’ve added tiers to our PFF dynasty team composite rankings to help you understand where the perceived value gaps are between player groupings. This was done primarily by using the group average and looking for natural breaks. I also used standard deviation to help draw in tier breaks when the decision could have gone either way. If a player on the edge of a tier had a wide range of ranks (read: lack of agreement) among our team then I dropped him to the lower tier. I ended up dividing our composite top-36 dynasty running back rankings into eight tiers.

Tier 1

Rank Player Team Tier
1 Todd Gurley LAR 1
2 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 1
3 Le’Veon Bell PIT 1
4 Saquon Barkley NYG 1

Elliott amazingly finished as RB12 in PPR last season despite missing six games due to suspension. He’s averaging 129.8 yards from scrimmage per game through his first two seasons and now the team will be depending on him even more due to lack of familiar weapons at other positions. By this time next year, I expect to see a tier one consisting of Gurley, Elliott, Barkley, Hunt, and Kamara, with Bell dropping down a level due to predictable dynasty owner concerns about age and wear.

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